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Nothing Says “I Like You” More Than A Home Cooked Meal

December 22, 2017

communist nostalgia art 4I cook a meal for my family from scratch almost every night.

I’m not saying this to brag or anything. I realize a lot of people simply can’t or dammit, don’t want to and I not only respect that, I envy it.

I cook for my family for two simple reasons. The first being that as a Czech, it’s somehow a biological imperative for me that my kids associate certain tastes and smells with their upbringing. Ones, specifically, that involve food. Slavs show their love through food. It’s what we do. We’re not big on the “I love yous.” In fact, the very phrase a head-over-heels, ga-ga in love Czech would use to express his affection is actually “Mam te rad.” This means, “I like you.” To say, “Miluju te,” which literally translates to “I love you,” would be overdoing it by Czech standards. People who say “miluju te” are a bit obsessive. The stalker types. If you’re a Czech and you say you like someone, it’s a big deal.

Just to be clear, I do tell my husband and children that I love them. But I also cook. A lot. When I first got married, I imagined that I would be cooking all sorts of Czech meals, even if I reserved my most ethnic dishes – goose, rabbit in cream sauce, pickled beef – for special occasions. Lo and behold, it turned out that my husband is not a fan of Czech cooking. He’s an Irish guy and has kind of a limited palette. Meat and potatoes and such. And my kids really hated Czech cooking pretty much from the get-go.

yucky face

No biggie. I just cooked other stuff. Anything from Chicken Pot Pie to Kung Pao Tofu.

But what makes me crazy is how – despite having pretty much a gourmet meal put in front their little half-Czech faces every night, my kids would still rather eat plain spaghetti or that processed fare from the frozen foods aisle. They deem foods like grilled salmon and shrimp risotto too flavorful.

That’s when I like to remind them of the sorts of foods I grew up eating. Especially the after school snacks that my surly great-grandmother used to prepare for me. Treats like raw bacon, boiled chicken skin, head cheese and scrambled veal brains on toast. If I had dared turn my nose up at those…well, I don’t know what would have happened exactly, but I can tell you it wouldn’t have been pretty. This was a woman who used to drown kittens in her bathtub whenever her mouser got knocked up. She defended her family so forcefully against a raid from Russian soldiers that they knocked her teeth out with the butts of their guns. Toothless and bleeding, she still managed to cuss them out.

You just didn’t mess with her.

old woman with gun

This is not my great-grandmother, but not too far off from her personality either.

And in honor of my great-grandmother and the foods I grew up eating, I thought I’d share one of her recipes with you. Just in case you’re wondering what to serve for your family this holiday season. Or at least what to threaten them with.

ROASTED BEEF TONGUE WITH ANCHOVY BUTTER

1 fresh beef tongue, boiled and skinned (simmer tongue in salted water for 3 to 4 hours)

1/4 pound butter

6 anchovies, mashed

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1 cup beef stock

1 cup bread crumbs

Preheat over to 350 degrees.

Cream half the butter with mashed anchovies and spread over cooked tongue. In a large pot, brown onion in the remaining butter, add meat and brown that a little, too. Pour in 1/2 cup beef stock. Roast in oven for about 1 hour or until tongue is good and brown on both sides. Sprinkle with lemon juice and bread crumbs. Add remaining stock and bake until bread crumbs are golden brown. Serves 6.

And have a wonderful Holiday – whatever you celebrate.

Prague Christmas card (Mark's)

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From → family

2 Comments
  1. I am way behind on reading emails but I have to say that the recipe for tongue sounds delicious and I am not Czech or Slavic. I am however adventurous in many ways with regard to food.

    BTW, it does sound like your grandmother was indeed not someone to be trifled with. She must
    have been a most amazing person to have known especially in retrospect. We don’t always appreciate warriors when we have them in our lives because they can be intimidating to say the least.

    Thank you for sharing your life and your history.

  2. Thanks for reading – and yes, the beef tongue is actually quite good. Try it!

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